Little girl reading to a new baby

Adjusting to a new sibling

Adding a new baby to the family is tricky enough the first time around. The challenges the second time around are different, but no less tricky. One of the bigger challenges is the adjustment for an older sibling.

Here are some tips for making the transition a bit smoother:

Before the baby comes

Talk about the changes that are coming – You don’t want to alarm your child by talking about difficulties, but you also don’t want to sugarcoat it and give the child unrealistic expectations. Aim for a balance.

Have reasonable expectations – I’m talking about your expectations for your child. Your child might not be as excited about the new baby as you hope. And that’s okay. Your child might not want to be the helper once the baby is there. And that’s okay.

Acknowledge that it might be hard – Acknowledge it to yourself, to your partner, and to your older children. It might be hard, but it will be okay.

After the baby comes

Talk about feelings with your child – Allow them to express all emotions, positive or negative, without judgement. Validate their emotions, and if they need to talk through them, be willing to do that for them.

Pouting child

Adjust expectations – even if you think you had realistic expectations before the baby is born, the odds are good that things won’t go exactly as you think. Make necessary adjustments.

Prioritize the older sibling at times – your older child still needs love and attention, and taking the time to have 1:1 focused time with your older child can lessen their worries about being displaced.

Don’t try to force a relationship – It’s okay if your older child doesn’t feel love and connection to the baby immediately. Many children don’t, but that can come later. Allow their relationship to develop at their own pace. Don’t try to make it happen, and instead create an environment free of competition and with opportunities for them to connect.

Sibling adjustment isn’t a one time event, either. There are tricky times surrounding the birth of the baby, but also tricky times to navigate later. A common one is when the new baby gets mobile and starts getting into the older child’s toys. Another when the older child needs to take on chores and responsibilities the younger one is not yet expected to.

I hope these tips help you have a smoother transition in your family!

Pregnant person with suitcase

Packing for labor

I know there are LOTS of lists out there for what to pack for labor, but I wanted to post my own. If you’re planning a hospital birth or a birth center birth, this list is for you! (One nice thing about home birth is you don’t need to pack…) You won’t need EVERYTHING on this list, but this will give you some good ideas to get you started!

Header saying "Labor Items" with blurred background image of packing a suitcase.
iPhone showing music playing in a hospital bed next to a person having a baby.

Music This can be a whole post of its own – and someday I will write it. Basically, make two playlists or Spotify lists: one for relaxing music and one for energizing music. You don’t need special music, chances are you already have plenty of music you like.

Lip Balm Bring several of these, because those little suckers tend to get lost during labor. Moms in labor tend to get dry lips and hospitals either won’t have anything you can use, or they’ll give you a small tube of Vaseline and charge you $20 for it.

Tennis Balls Or, if you prefer, racquetballs. As a professional, I prefer racquetballs for their ability to be sterilized between clients, but tennis balls work just as well for personal use. These can be used for a rolling massage on the lower back or pressed firmly into mom’s lower back for counter pressure if she is experiencing back labor.

Unscented oil/lotion Laboring women are really extra sensitive to smell, so I recommend unscented. You can always bring a scented *and* an unscented if you want to give the scented a try. Just have mom take a sniff before you slather it everywhere in case it is too much.

Massage Tools I wouldn’t recommend you go out and buy any, but if you have massage tools around the house that you like, go ahead and throw them in your bag. If they are the vibrating kind, make sure you have batteries – and spares – for them.

Warm socks It’s normal for women to feel cold feet in labor. Sometimes it is the figurative kind (I’ve heard lots of moms say “I don’t think I’m ready to be a mom!” in labor.), but here I am talking about the literal cold feet. Warm socks – several pair – are good to have on hand. The kind that have tread on the bottom to make it less slippery are good if you have them. Or bring slippers.

Food Moms are burning LOTS of calories in labor, and if you’re hungry, EAT. Researchers are proving that food and drink in labor are just fine. Here’s a great article on what kinds of foods are good in labor.

Dim light Sometimes it is hard to get nice dim light in a hospital, especially in the bathrooms. If you’d like to labor in the tub and have dim light, bring some battery operated candles or a smallish flashlight.

Birth Ball Many hospitals have these, but it can be nice to have your own for use in early labor at home, or in case the hospital’s ball is not available. Get a standard exercise ball, sized right for you. I recommend it should be the burst resistant kind, and one that can hold 500 pounds of force at minimum. (I *know* you don’t weigh that much. We’re talking about FORCE, not weight!)

Couple carrying pillows into the hospital for their birth.

Pillow You may or may not want to bring your own. Most hospitals have plenty. But if you’re super attached to your pillow (like I am!) you will want it in labor. If you tend to bring it (or wish you could bring it) when you travel, you’ll want to pack yours. But DON’T have it in a white pillow case! It would really be sad to have it get lost in the hospital linens. Anything but white or close to white!

Fan Some moms really like a small battery operated fan.

Cheat Sheets I always tell my classes “Labor is an open book exam!” It’s OK – and GOOD – to look at your reference materials. Bring any books you read, any handouts from a childbirth class, and have mom make a list of things she wants to try. I also really like the iBirth App and the book “Deliver!” for this.

Birth Plan If you created a written document, print out several copies and bring them. Neon paper is good and helps keep it from getting lost in the shuffle. Give to your nurse, post one on the wall, etc.

Flavors for ice If you’re restricted to ice chips, having something to flavor the ice chips and add a little calories can help. This can be juices, electrolyte drinks, etc. Just no caffeine!

Ziplock Bags I use these mostly for creating ice packs (fill with ice, seal, wrap in a towel) or hot packs (Get a towel soaking wet with the hottest water from the tub or shower and seal it up so it doesn’t drip. Wrap in a towel or gown.) Occasionally I’ve used it to seal up something smelly (like a tuna sandwich with pickles one dad brought!) so mom can’t smell it any more. I bring sandwich size and gallon size and I prefer the freezer kind. They’re tougher.

Band for long hair If you have long hair, you may want to put it up to get in the shower, bath, or just because you’re hot and sweaty. Even if you never wear it up, pack something so you have the option. Most women just use a pony tail holder, but you could bring a clip or a shower cap, too.

Hand mirror I can’t emphasize enough that it needs to be an UNBREAKABLE hand mirror! Some women really benefit from seeing the results of their pushing. This is why many hospitals provide mirrors. Unfortunately, some hospitals mount the mirror to the ceiling (so it only helps if mom is on her back) or they have a small mirror on a big pole. An unbreakable hand mirror can be used in ANY position and has a lot more flexibility. They are particularly useful when mom is squatting, kneeling, or standing to push.

Header saying "Toiletries" with blurred background image of packing a suitcase.

Because that hairy feeling in your mouth is no fun. And because moms want their partner to have fresh breath!

Assorted toiletries packed in a travel bag

Hairbrush Because it can feel nice to brush your hair out and feel good. Some moms use hair brushing as a labor comfort technique, too.

Contact lens supplies & spare glasses While most hospitals won’t make mom remove contacts for birth, even with a cesarean, if they’re bothering her she’ll want to take them out. And backup glasses so she can still see baby clearly at birth if she takes them out.

Deodorant Remember what I said above about moms being extra sensitive to smell in labor? ’nuff said.

Spare clothes for both partners Labor can go long, it’s nice to have something fresh to change into when it has been 24 hours. Plus I’ve seen moms pull their fully clothed partner right into the shower with them, and then you REALLY want something else to wear! Some partners will bring a swimsuit in case mom wants him in the tub or shower with her.

Basically pack everything you would pack for a weekend getaway, for BOTH parents!

Header saying "Don't Forget" with blurred background image of packing a suitcase.

Camera Since I am also a birth photographer, clearly birth photos are something I value and I would hope most parents do, too. Don’t trust them to just your cell phone camera. Have a better camera on hand, along with spare batteries, a spare memory card, and a charger if it uses a special camera battery. Or just hire a birth photographer and leave it in the hands of a pro. (BONUS! When you have a pro, both parents can be in the photos!)

Close up photo of phone charger

Phone charger Or iPad charger, Kindle charger, or charger for whatever electronics you might be bringing to the birth room. You don’t want your phone to die just before you send out the “BABY IS HERE!” text!

A list of the people you want to remember to contact, so that no one gets forgotten. I would hope that families would cut new parents some slack, but I’ve seen a lot of pettiness over who gets called first, who gets a text and not a call, etc. etc.

Wednesday Wrap Up January 20

WednesdayWrapUpAThis is so true, and something I have tried to convey to the women I work with. If you don’t like the care, and it’s not a good fit for what you want, move on. Take your health care dollars elsewhere!

Maybe I loved this so much because I can relate, but I really appreciated how this letter to the bloggers and writers who want to feature birth photography addressed the issues we face as birth photographers. I’ve been there, and it’s not fun.

There is some irony in the fact that this article is published….on the internet. But it’s a good one anyway: 4 Things You Can’t Learn About Birth On The Internet

I have explained this to so many parents, it’s a ridiculous conundrum. Why Most Private Practice IBCLCs Don’t Take Insurance (Hint: Probably better phrased as “How Most Insurance Companies Get Out of Paying for Mandated Breastfeeding Services”)

Great overview of why cesarean rates are high, and how they can be lowered. I found it really interesting to see what step had the biggest impact in this pilot program in Southern California.

Wednesday Wrap Up Sept 24

WednesdayWrapUpCSymphysis Pubis dysfunction is a painful (and surprisingly common) complication of pregnancy and can progress to a full on separation. One woman’s experience and some tips for working through that kind of pelvic instability are here. I would recommend a women’s health physical therapist as well as a chiropractor.

Fear of labor can be just a normal thing in pregnancy, but it also can escalate to a phobic level, and this article talks about why and how we can help.

ACOG, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, and the
Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine have issued new guidelines on estimating a due date in pregnancy. I’ve seen some crazy, crazy things happen when providers move around due dates as late as during labor. I love that they still call it “estimating” and that they discourage making small changes in the second & third trimester.

An interesting way to preserve and remember your breastfeeding experience. Would you do it?

14 ways to use the birth ball. Practice all of these and adjust/adapt to your own body and birth!

Here’s a great video on how to find and paint your baby’s position on your belly.

Wednesday Wrap Up July 30

WednesdayWrapUpNFor two out of my three pregnancies, I chose not to find out if my baby was a boy or a girl. I *loved* the anticipation of not knowing and the moment of surprise at the birth. (For the third, I let my husband get his way and find out. Naturally, he refused to believe it was another girl until she was born, despite making the guy go back and look again FIVE TIMES….) If you’re not sure you want to know, here are 8 reasons to not find out.

Fifteen things no one tells you about motherhood while you’re pregnant. There are a lot of lists like this out there, and I find that most of them are things people DO tell pregnant moms, but they are interesting anyway. I love the last one here.

Loved this explanation of how dads can bond with their baby.

5 Things NOT to say to a woman with postpartum depression – and what to say instead. There needs to be more articles like this. I have heard every single one of these said to or about moms struggling with depression.

Since I also do professional birth photography, I loved this short video on capturing this one of life’s poignant moments, from New Zealand birth photographer Keri-Anne Dilworth

Birth – First Light Birth Photography – Auckland, New Zealand from Keri-Anne Dilworth on Vimeo.

Wednesday Wrap Up 10/23


An inspiring story of a mom who advocated for herself and made a difference when her care provider turned out to be a bad match for her birth plan.

Your Doula Bag is doing a month long blog event with doula articles every day in Oct. I liked this one on New Doula Jitters. Even after attending hundreds of births since 1999, I still sometimes get the jitters, but they always leave very soon after arriving at a birth.

Great list of things you can try for morning sickness.

And in case it actually is more than your run of the mill morning sickness: The HelpHer Foundation – Hyperemesis Education and Research. They have online support groups for women really struggling.

Not to toot my own horn, I have another blog over at Understanding Research, where I post links and information on research in the news. Currently, I’m sharing some links and information about the study making a splash in the news this week – the one on breast milk sharing. (OK, I admit it, that was totally tooting my own horn! Indulge me, please.)

Hey mom!One of my favorite local resources, The Healing Group, has a campaign for new moms called Hey Mom! – it is designed to help bring moms together and support each other. They have pinnable memes, ecards you can send to pick up a new mom, and links to a whole bunch of resources.

And because Halloween is next week… (NEXT WEEK! Yikes. How did that happen?)

Pregnant Pumpkin Carving Pattern, from Rixa Freeze’s blog “Stand and Deliver

A nice wrap up of the many, many birthing pumpkins making the rounds, courtesy of the Pregnant Chicken.

Some of these costumes are funny, some are just creepy! Maternity Halloween Costume Ideas

And just because it is fun….a little seasonal pregnancy announcement:

Wednesday Wrap Up 9/25

Salt Lake City DoulaA new large scale analysis of the research shows that eating and drinking in labor is safe! Put simply in a quote from the article: “There is no evidence of any benefit to restricting what women eat and drink in labor.”

My friend Sharon Muza, a doula in the Seattle area, wrote this great article will of ideas for what kinds of foods to eat in labor.

Apparently I am not the only one to hear “My sister is going to be my doula…” or “I’m having my mother-in-law to be my doula” all the time. Bellies and Babies wrote a great article outlining what a professional doula can bring to your birth experience that a friend or family member cannot do. Consider a doula *and* your sister, mother-in-law, etc.

I love birth stories! Here’s a fun one, from Jill at Baby Rabies. It is nicely photographed and told with humor. (Also a good example of swearing as a pain coping technique) I totally want that shower….for my house!

I came across this GREAT four part series by Amy Hoyt on understanding the pelvis and optimal fetal positioning recently and loved how detailed it is, and how they have illustrated it so well.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Here is another resource that shows how to apply some of the concepts in the 4 part series above. It has embedded YouTube videos that can give you a better sense of how the system works.

Today’s video is a very cleverly done time lapse of a woman throughout pregnancy. I love how you can see her making forward progress as she walks!

Birth and pregnancy apps for smartphones and tablets

Best Apps for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenthood

Birth and pregnancy apps for smartphones and tabletsThese days, a smartphone or an iPad gives you lots of information literally in the palm of your hand. Cutting through the fluff to find the really useful stuff can be a real pain! I’ve found a few apps to be really useful to me in my birth work:

iBirth If you only get one app, this should be the one! This app has a contraction timer, information about nutrition, tips and lists, and my personal favorite: the VIDEOS! It includes many short videos of labor skills. I often open this up on my phone or iPad to show a client exactly what I’d like them to do.

Kindle App I use this all the time just for reading, but at births, I love to have reference books available. My favorites I have loaded in my Kindle app are The Birth Partner (Recommend for parents) Deliver! A concise guide to helping the woman you love through labor (also for parents) and The Labor Progress Handbook (recommended for birth professionals)

LactMed This free app is a fantastic resource for information on drugs and breastfeeding!

Bishop’s Score Calc This is a good one for moms considering an induction. You can tap in the information and it gives you valuable information in return, including an estimated cesarean rate for inductions in those circumstances. It doesn’t factor in complications that may make induction a good idea anyway, but it can be a useful tool for those thinking about induction for non-medical reasons.

Blausen Reproductive Atlas
This cool app has videos showing various things about the anatomy and physiology of pregnancy and birth, as well as common medical procedures.

What are your favorite apps for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and postpartum? I’d love to hear from both moms and birth professionals!

Wednesday Wrap Up: July 10

Weekly Web Links for the Childbearing Year5 Cool Things No One Ever Told You About Nighttime Breastfeeding I learned a few things from this article, too!

15 ways to reduce pain during childbirth
– but here’s the catch: They are all things you do well BEFORE labor! Bet you didn’t know that what you do beforehand can make a difference in the pain you might feel!

This is a nice summary of HELLP Syndrome and its effects on pregnancy. It’s rare, but I’ve seen it happen a few times and it is not a good thing. In the initial stages, moms often don’t realize anything is wrong.

Want to hear one doctor and IBCLC’s take on normal weight loss in newborns? It’s a bit technical, but very evidence based and reassuring to moms worried about their baby’s feeding.

I had my first baby 20 years ago this week. And I *still* remember how difficult the summer was while pregnant! Found this article on ways to beat the heat while pregnant.

Musings from Mama Birth on Channing Tatum’s experience with childbirth and a car commercial. Worth the read!

Today’s video is a preview for a documentary about Ima May Gaskin:

“Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin & the Farm Midwives” Official Trailer from Birth Story on Vimeo.

Wednesday Wrap Up 6-19

Wednesday Wrap-Up Graphic - Salt Lake City Private Childbirth ClassesThe truth about which stretch mark treatments really work, and which don’t. Drawn from actual unbiased research reports.

Here’s a great list of fact sheets on various medications, herbal products, illicit substances, maternal conditions, etc. and their effects on pregnancy. Again, all drawn from unbiased research sources.

8 Stats you should know about your obstetrician. I don’t love the comparison to the Farm midwives that keeps popping up in the article, because birthing at The Farm isn’t a realistic option for most women. But if women knew these stats to compare their actual options against each other, these could be useful things to know.

Fascinating and very real article: The Push is Powerful Stuff! From a home birth midwife. Some women like pushing, preferring the active work to help move things along. Some don’t enjoy it but everyone needs to do it!

The most creative presentation of a birth plan I have EVER seen!

Speaking of Birth Plans, here are some articles from the perspective of a great L&D RN:
Part 1: Writing your Birth Plan; Tips from an L&D RN
Part 2: Top 10 Dos for Writing Your Birth Plan
And don’t forget to read my own article on Birth Plans!

Darrin LythgoeLove this “recipe” for helping women establish breastfeeding. It is what I recommend for moms struggling with supply or latch issues.

Today is my 21st anniversary, it’s been a (mostly) great 21 years, looking forward to many, many more. Here’s the great man who is behind all that I do. He supported me through 3 great births. He’s spent countless hours doing double parenting duty while I am at births, teaching, or attending conferences. He has used vacation days so I can be with clients. He has listened to me rant and rave about my frustrations with the maternity care system in this country. He has helped me with web design, listened to me practice my presentations, and proofread my materials. All while working a full time job AND running his own software business! I love him!

I’ve featured Ceci Jane before, but her birth videos are just so incredible! I love the older siblings here, and the real sounds of the laboring mom!

Wednesday Wrap Up 6/12

Wednesday Wrap-Up Graphic - Salt Lake City birth doulaLoved this article on supporting women’s choices. I loved it so much I have to throw out a quote:
“We can never fully know the stories of the mothers we serve. As a doula and a birth educator, I’m privileged only to what a woman shares with me, and often it is simply a picture of her present life, not her past.
And if a woman shares her past with me, it is by comparison, only a tiny glimpse into the story that really occurred – a condensed version that she feels comfortable expressing on that day, at that particular time – there is much left unsaid.
The words left unspoken tell a deeper story than the words that are spoken. And because of this, I must trust that when a woman makes an informed choice not to breastfeed she’s doing so because she knows ultimately what is best for her and her baby.
In return, I must offer the best support I can give without judgement or assumptions – something that every mother is deserving of.”

Loved this essay by midwife-turned-doctor Aviva Romm: How Being a Midwife Made Me a Better Doctor

When women are pregnant, for some reason, their bodies become public property, and everything is up for discussion. It’s even worse for celebrities. Loved this article about how to talk about celebrity weight gain in pregnancy. The tips apply to every pregnant woman, ever, not just the famous.

Today’s video is a wonderful birth story from my friend and fellow birth photographer, Natasha Hance.

Laboring Mother Supported by her husband

Birth Story Palooza!

Laboring Mother Supported by her husbandPregnant women all too often hear nothing but horror stories when pregnant. Just what every pregnant mom needs to hear. It’s become so much of a problem, that products like this T-shirt and buttons are needed. Some women who have positive birth stories are even afraid to share them because of the backlash from not participating in the “my birth was worse than yours” games.

If you’d like to focus on reading some very positive birth stories, here are some places to find them:

Web Sites

Birth Stories On Demand
Birth Without Fear
Positive Birth Stories
Local stories using HypnoBirthing. Text stories and Video Stories
Home birth stories


Adventures in Natural Childbirth

Birth Stories: Mystery, Power and Creation
Journey Into Mothershood: Inspirational Stories of Natural Birth
Baby Catcher – memoirs of a home birth midwife, full of birth stories